For Sale: 1,000 Lighthouses

Sambro Island lighthouse after it was freshly painted for its 250th birthday celebration in 2008. Located at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, Sambro is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America and a Canadian National Historic Site. It is one of the 970 lighthouses declared surplus by the government. (Barry MacDonald)

Almost 1,000 lighthouses across Canada, including the iconic Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia and Race Rocks in British Columbia, have been declared surplus property.

In May, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced that under the new Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, 480 active and 490 inactive lighthouses—not including staffed light stations—are “surplus to its needs.”

This means that the lighthouses can be purchased by individuals, municipalities, or non-profit groups wishing to take advantage of their heritage designation or tourism potential.

However, in order for active lighthouses that contain aids to navigation to remain operational, the new owner would have to enter into an agreement with DFO, permitting it access to the site for maintenance and operation of the navigational aid.

“It should be clear that while still active lighthouse structures can be transferred to the public, the actual navigational light will not be transferred and will remain the property of the department with the Canadian Coast Guard ensuring its continued operation,” DFO’s website says.

Lighthouse supporters are upset over the move, saying there is a considerable financial burden attached to the acquisition and upkeep of a lighthouse, and some structures are already in disrepair from neglect.

Barry MacDonald, president of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, says DFO’s announcement “came as a major disappointment.”

“By doing this DFO is bypassing or circumventing their responsibility, as far as we're concerned, in the implementation of the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act that took nine years to get in place.”

DFO said the surplus lighthouses “could be replaced with simpler structures whose operation and maintenance would be more cost-effective.”

Interested parties have until May 2012 to seek heritage designation for a surplus lighthouse. A petition must be signed by 25 Canadians over the age of 18 and sent to the Minister responsible for Parks Canada. In addition, a written commitment to acquire ownership and protect a lighthouse must be submitted to DFO in order for it to receive heritage designation.

Aside from the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, there are also other government programs that allow groups to either acquire or lease lighthouses.

Category: US